Jac was thankful that the evenings were getting lighter. Not by much, but at least the world wasn't cloaked in darkness for quite so long every day. They were never sure whether it was safer to travel during the day or at night, so they had been moving at dusk and dawn, staying put through the lightest hours and the darkest.
Jac had seen things they had hoped to never see, scenes more harrowing that any nightmare they had ever had. They knew the world could be a cruel place, now more than ever, but they had wished so often for a friendly face and it always came as a disappointment that the only faces they encountered were ones it was safer to hide from.
To maintain some semblance of normality in spite of the loneliness and lack of direction, Jac had maintained their self-developed exercise programme with a daily work-out conducted mostly in abandoned gardens or empty fields.
When night fell, they slept in their car because at least they could move quickly if they absolutely needed to. They had needed to, more than once, and recently enough to still feel shaken by the experience. They fought their memories and fears with physical exertion, repeating their mantra in time with the crunches they were doing on a blanket on the cold ground. Strong-er, strong-er, strong-er.
Having almost reached a state of calm, Jac noticed a sound they hadn't heard in days - another engine. Torn between remaining hidden and comparatively safe, and potentially meeting someone else who was just trying to get by, they bowed their head and whispered, "Please God, please let what I'm about to do be a good idea."
They stood up and took a deep breath.
A black SUV swung through the open gate into the field before Jac even had time to consider how they might signal to someone in a moving vehicle in a way that didn't make them look like a threat.
The SUV slid to a halt, skidding along the rain-damp grass, and stopped less than six feet from Jac's own car. Throwing caution to the wind and just about every other weather condition, Jac put on their most convincing I'm not going to kill you smile and hoped for the best.
The door of the SUV opened and the occupant tumbled out, a heap of tattered clothes, emitting curses so eloquent that Jac learned at least five new words in the space of three seconds.
Approaching cautiously, and drawing a blank as to how to greet someone who might be dying, or at least seriously injured, they crouched down beside the swearing heap of clothes and asked, "Are you alright?"
The heap of clothes unraveled slightly to reveal a scarred face, pale eyes, and hands curled into fists, shaking. A voice like ice on gravel replied only, "Yes."
"Are you sure?" asked Jac. "You sort of seem a bit...not alright?"
"Are you hurt? Can I do anything? I have some medical supplies and I don't really know what to do with most of them, to be honest, but I do have them in the car if you—"
"I'm fine. Seriously. It's just an...it's nothing. I'm fine."
"I don't mean to add to whatever's going on with you right now, but you just fell out of a car and you look a bit like you might be having a heart attack. Are you having a heart attack? My papa had one once and I had to call an ambulance, but there were still functional hospitals back then and now I don't really know what to do if someone has a heart attack but...I'm sorry. I'm not helping. But are you having a heart attack, do you think?"
"I thought I might have been, but no. This is...something else. I'll be OK in a minute. Nothing's exploding and nothing's broken. I'm good. I just need to breathe."
"Can I help you up?"
"I don't need any help."
"I think you do," said Jac, matter-of-factly. And with that, they carefully lifted the shaking man into a seated position, leaned his back against the SUV, then sat down beside him.
YOU ARE READING
Car ThievesScience Fiction
The year 2027. Edinburgh, Scotland. Disease has swept a deadly path through society. A nightlife mogul with a violent past, a sadistic drug dealer, an artist craving companionship, a privileged playboy and a fiercely independent motor mechanic strug...